After humble beginnings in 1987 as a Austin, Texas-based music festival, SXSW now annually hosts almost 2,000 bands, thousands more industry professionals, a film festival and an interactive festival. This year’s music portion takes place March 15-20.
How important is SXSW? Two years ago, this unknown band called Mumford & Sons played a pizza parlor patio as part of the event.
Not every act takes off like that from SXSW buzz, but not all are trying to, either. Oklahoma City instrumental act The Non will make its second SXSW trek to talk with other groups, not tastemakers or label execs.
“The name of the game in anything pro is networking, and that’s true in the band game as well,” said Tom Bishop, bassist for The Non. “Our goal is to meet bands from the region and outside the region, exchange info, and hopefully trade shows. That worked out pretty well for us last year, and I’m looking for it to go even better this year.”
Colourmusic has lived the truth of Bishop’s statement, as this will be the Stillwater indie band’s fifth year at SXSW. Its members have used the experience for everything from finding a label to securing a booking agent to meeting with old friends. This year, they plan on promoting their sophomore album, “My ____ Is Pink,” due May 10.
“It’s so concentrated with people in the industry that what happens there resounds for the rest of the year,” said Nick Ley, Colourmusic drummer. “There’s a lot of Web coverage that ties the rest of the world into what’s happening. It’s exhausting, but it’s also really fun.”
One of the shows Colourmusic will play there is the inaugural official Oklahoma showcase. The “official” distinction carries weight; hundreds of shows will occur in the six days that aren’t sponsored by SXSW. Fronted by labels, blogs and other entities, they are considered less prestigious than an official showcase, so having the SXSW stamp of approval is a boon for the Oklahoma Film & Music Office.
What happens there resounds for the rest of the year.
“It makes us a player,” said Jill Simpson, OFMO director. “It sends the message that the talent that will be performing is high-caliber.”
The OFMO’s mission is to support film and music in Oklahoma, so having a presence at SXSW is a big deal. It has booked a venue on Sixth Street (the hub of SXSW action), where it will showcase Okie acts for three days, at what it’s dubbing “The Buffalo Lounge.” The Non and Colourmusic will play there, as will performers like Broncho, The Boom Bang and Sherree Chamberlain.
“We know what’s going on in Oklahoma, and we’re excited about it, but I don’t think a lot of the other people do,” Simpson said. “It’s become an even greater push. It’s so cool. It just gives me the chills. … We want to create an environment in Oklahoma so that (musicians) don’t want to leave.”